The last four years have been quite a roller coaster ride for senior right-handed pitcher Phil Weylie.
A First-Team Class 5-A FHSAA All-State selection at perennial powerhouse Seminole High School, Weylie received many letters from some premier Division I college baseball programs, including the University of Notre Dame, during a standout prep career.
“I still have that letter,” he said, smiling. “Regardless of what happens, nothing can change that.”
Following such a dominant senior year in high school—where he pushed Seminole back into state title contention—it appeared as if Weylie was the next Warhawk product on the way to college stardom. Despite the promising finish, Weylie received only one scholarship offer, from nearby Eckerd College.
“I was told I just wasn’t good enough for the next level by many coaches,” Weylie said. “I was even more stunned when I received only one scholarship offer. Of course I took it because baseball has been my passion my entire life.”
Things then got worse for Weylie, as he suffered an arm injury before stepping foot on campus. The injury led to reconstructive surgery, preventing him from pitching for 12 months and stripping away his entire freshman year.
The event forced Weylie to doubt whether or not he would be the same pitcher who grabbed the headlines of the St. Petersburg Times, who consistently mowed down the top high school hitters in Pinellas County.
“Not only would I be sitting in the stands my first year at a college varsity level, but doctors were certain that I would never perform at the level I once had. It was terrible,” Weylie said.
In his first year back from surgery Weylie was not the same pitcher. In a disappointing season overall for the Tritons—Eckerd finished with only 14 wins—the Indian Shores native lost his way on the mound, posting a 1-3 record and 6.76 ERA (still third on the team for pitcher with more than 10 appearances) in 12 appearances, including five ineffective starts.
“That was the toughest year of my baseball career, especially personally,” he said. “The losing took a toll, but I was not satisfied with my personal performance, which only made it worse.”
Weylie’s junior campaign was nothing to write home about, either. Although he secured a permanent spot in the Tritons’ rotation with a strong showing in fall workouts, the struggles continued for Weylie, who ended the year with a 1-7 record and 6.65 ERA in a career-best 11 starts.
All the while, many of his high school teammates had emerged as college stars. Instead of becoming jealous, Weylie used the success of his peers as a motivational tool, helping him realize his potential as a college pitcher.
The summer following his junior year Weylie showed an impeccable work ethic, often working late into the night in an attempt to cleanse the bad taste in his mouth after struggling at Eckerd.
“When a lot of my teammates were enjoying their summers, I was out running, doing whatever it took to make an impact.” Weylie said. “Last year did not sit well with me—from a personal and team standpoint. This is it. I’m off to law school when I graduate in May.”
If this spring is the final exam of Weylie’s baseball career, then it looks like all the hard work has paid off and he will pass with flying colors. And while it has certainly taken longer than many expected, he is finally on his way to establishing himself as a legitimate starter in the Sunshine State Conference.
Through the season’s first month, Weylie has consistently provided Eckerd head coach Bill Matthews with a chance to win in each of his four outings. The shining light on a Tritons' pitching staff sitting last in the conference with a 6.27 team ERA, he is currently leading the team with three wins, two complete games, a 3.33 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 27.0 innings pitched.
Equally important, Weylie has pitched into the seventh inning in all of his appearances, giving Matthews’ overworked, thin bullpen some much-needed relief. He delivered yet another gutsy complete-game performance on the road against Florida Tech this weekend. Weylie, who is currently tied for first in the conference in wins, limited the Panthers to three earned runs and seven hits to lead Eckerd to its first conference victory.
It was on Saturday, February, 16, however, when it all came full circle for Weylie, as he turned in perhaps his strongest outing in an Eckerd uniform. In a dominant complete-game performance in the Tritons’ 4-3 win over Nova Southeastern, he kept a talented Sharks lineup in check, giving up three hits on three earned runs while setting an individual game career high with 10 strikeouts. Nearly as impressive, though, Weylie did not issue a single walk the entire afternoon—a rarity at Eckerd games over the years—without allowing a baserunner until the fourth inning.
The impressive win came a week after Weylie threw seven stellar innings in the Tritons’ 3-2, extra-innings loss to Warner Southern, when he allowed only two earned runs on eight hits in a tough-luck no decision. Weylie described the start as “encouraging.”
Weylie, who is easily sitting as the best statistical pitcher in the program at press time, is definitely off to his strongest start for the Tritons. He is not satisfied, however, and says he still has a lot left to prove.
“It’s been a good start," Weylie said. "I just want to keep it going. But more concerning to me, we need to start winning, and I think we have the talent to do so.”
Tyler Hissey is a senior business major at Eckerd College. To contact him, send an email to TylerHissey@gmail.com. To read more from him, check out his websites-- [rays.scout.com]; [tylersarticles.blogspot.com]